Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Seeing Yourself in Art

I hate small talk. So every once in a while, I come up with an interesting icebreaker question and use it until all my friends have heard it. "What would you do if you found out your parents were time traveling assassins? How would you define yourself in one word-no adjectives allowed? If you were stuck in a room for thirty  years and all you could do was listen to the same song over and over again, which one would you pick?"
I'd been thinking over that last one for a while. I wouldn't want anything depressing because that would remind me of my own predicament. But happy songs would make me grow cynical. And really, if I heard a song that many times I'd go insane. I'd pick something long and without lyrics, like a symphony, so at least I don't have words drilled into my brain for eternity.
Then I wondered how long it would take me to insane. Listen to song fifty times and you'll think deep thoughts that never occurred to you the first time around. In thirty years, you could listen to a four minute song 3,942,000 times.
We naturally apply songs to our lives. When Taylor Swift sings about a very specific breakup with a very specific boy, it's our own love lives we think about, not hers. Listen to Evanescence and you'll remember every moment you've felt small, shut out, and alone. And if the song has absolutely nothing to do with our lives? After 3,942,000 listens, we'll find a way to relate it. That's all part of the descent into insanity.
But is it really insanity if we do it already?
Last week I discovered this song. It's about an anglerfish. Yet I see bits of my life inside it.
Hank Green did not write this song for me. Yet I treat it like it is. Just as I do every other song-and every other piece of art.  Why do we stubbornly insist on seeing ourselves in art that wasn't created for us, by people who know us, or with people like us in mind? Except for special cases-like love songs or poems written for dead friends-the only people artists create for is themselves. Yes, they create for fans, and keep in mind the things those people will like. But that's people-in-general, not a specific person.
You can only ever see the world through your own eyes. You can't hear out of any ears that aren't your own. But is it possible to experience art without thinking of yourself?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think so because I think that being able to identify with the art is what makes it good. Good art is relatable. It can be interpreted many ways but we, ourselves, can only interpret it through the lenses we've developed through our life's experiences. If it didn't speak to so many people in so many ways, it probably isn't really art.